D.A.R.E. Class Gets an Earful on Peer Pressure, Substance Abuse
NORTH AUGUSTA — Local basketball standout Antonio Grant, one of Aiken County’s best-traveled athletes, provided some food for thought this week for students in Hammond Hill Elementary School’s D.A.R.E. program, as the featured speaker for the group’s graduation ceremony.
In photo (click for full view): Antonio Grant speaks Wednesday to Hammond Hill Elementary School’s D.A.R.E. students for their graduation. Also shown are Verne Sadler, left, with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety; Sara Beth Brown, assistant principal; Eric Jeffcoat, principal; and Cathy Martin, guidance counselor.
Grant, who was a star player at North Augusta High School and went on to turn heads at the University of South Carolina and play professionally in several countries, spoke to a packed cafeteria crowd on Wednesday morning, sharing from a variety of highs and lows that he encountered, growing up in a home without a dad and with more than enough temptation to cause some major stumbles. His boosters, he said, included Pat Carpenter, a North Augusta City Council member, also known to some as one of the community’s most active athletic coaches and youth advocates.
Among Wednesday’s young D.A.R.E. listeners was Joseph Zeller III, who recalled that Grant “got a little bit outcast and … sad and depressed before he got to college,” being dogged by his past life, which included multiple expulsions from school.
“I think it was a very interesting story,” Joe added, confirming that he found himself wondering how Grant, after so much turbulence, had wound up being where he is today.
Grant’s background includes pro basketball in locales including France, Russia, Croatia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Lebanon, China, Taiwan, Mexico and Jordan. Now, with Carpenter’s help, he offers annual youth basketball camps at Riverview Park Activities Center.
Joseph was one of Wednesday’s primary honorees, as his DARE essay was chosen as one of the six best in his group. Also honored, and joining him in reading their essays, were Julian Beecham, Allison Pawlowicz, Isabelle Doying, Kaydance Carlan and KeOndre’ Whitfield.
Drug Abuse Resistance Education focuses on encouraging students to steer clear of substance abuse, gang involvement and violent behavior. Tom Rogers, with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, leads the classes in North Augusta.